Schools see looming staff retirements

One-third of workers `close to walking out the door'

Results of hiring-practices study

Minority recruitment has increased since 2000

Carroll County

February 09, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

A review of the Carroll County school system's hiring practices has found that more than a third of the district's workers are at or near retirement age, racial minorities make up 3 percent of its employees and women constitute 76 percent of the work force, according to a report school officials are scheduled to discuss at tonight's school board meeting.

The report, prepared by the district's human resources department, is a snapshot of the district's hiring and recruitment efforts during the past five years.

"We have a growing number of employees who are eligible for retirement or will be within the next five years," Jimmie Saylor, the district's human resources director, said yesterday. "Almost 40 percent are very close to walking out the door."

The report describes the finding as an "alarming trend."

Of the district's 3,384 employees, about 1,286 - or 38 percent - are on the brink of retirement, Saylor said. Five years ago, that figure stood at 30 percent.

In an effort to address that issue and hiring overall, school officials appointed Anna-Maria Halstead to the position of "teacher recruiter" about four years ago, Saylor said.

Saylor said it is imperative that the school system maintain its "vigorous recruitment program" in anticipation of vacancies that are inevitable as teacher retirements increase during the next five years.

"The system is tuned in to the fact that there is a teacher shortage, and the current work force is closer and closer to retirement," she said.

Saylor said it was no surprise that women make up 76 percent of the district's work force because the system had a similar proportion of women employees five years ago - about 77 percent.

She also said that most of the system's female employees are in the professional teaching ranks. Of the district's 2,583 women employees, 1,621 are teachers - about 63 percent - according to the report.

Saylor added that the number of women hired is proportional to the number of female applicants to the district.

"There are more women who go into education as a field than men, and our work force reflects that," she said.

"If the [applicant] pool was different than our employees, I would say there's a concern," she said. "At this point, there aren't any surprises."

The report also points to the district's efforts to recruit more minorities.

In 2000, minorities made up 2.3 percent of the work force. Minorities now make up 3 percent of the district's employees. The report shows that during the past five years, the school system has increased its hiring of minorities by 60 percent. In 2000, the district had 63 minority employees. It now has 101.

Halstead credits concerted recruitment efforts at historically black colleges and universities for the increase in minority hiring.

"When you come to new-teacher orientation and you see five [minority] people, it doesn't look like a lot against the masses," she said. "But it is an improvement."

Halstead said the district's goal is to have its teacher population reflect its student population.

According to the report, the district's work force is 3 percent minority and its student population is 6.4 percent minority. The county population is 4.3 percent minority, the report shows.

By law, Halstead is prohibited from indicating on a candidate's application that he or she is a minority. But she said that by having a Carroll County presence at as many job fairs as possible where minority candidates are likely to be, she can increase the numbers in the applicant pool.

"One of my goals is to seek out and actively recruit minority applicants by focusing on historically black colleges and universities and increasing Carroll County's public school visibility at those schools," she said.

So far this school year, she has attended nine minority job fairs. Halstead expects to attend 50 job fairs this school year and aims to make sure that at least 20 percent of the fairs are geared toward minorities.

Halstead said that while the high-performing Carroll school district is generally an easy sell to prospective teachers, there are several challenges to hiring minorities for a largely white school system.

Some teachers want to teach in schools where they will find students who look like them, she said. She also said she sometimes senses reluctance within the system to embrace change.

"Some want to keep the teaching population the way it is, and the student population the way it is, because we're very successful right now," she said.

But she added that the vast majority of the district's minority teachers are "accepted, respected and supported."

She said money, or the lack of it, is another factor that bears on recruitment efforts.

"If we could get the type of funding from local, state and federal [governments] that we need, it would make life a lot easier," she said. "We do a whole lot of things around here with little resources."

She said that higher salaries and more substantial retirement packages would go a long way toward appealing to more applicants.

One of the report's conclusions is that "to ensure that ... students experience culture that is representative of the world, CCPS must continue to implement strategies to create a diverse, discrimination-free workplace."

Halstead agrees that it is important to show children, and adults, that the world beyond Carroll County looks very different.

"We're not just trying to change the outward complexion of Carroll County schools. We're trying to broaden the complexion of thinking," Halstead said. "We want to broaden a person's horizon and give them the opportunity to think beyond what they are and what they know."

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